When you go to market or order beef online, there are a lot of choices. Depending on your dietary needs, you can choose from grass-fed beef, organic beef, and grain-fed, and more. But these different types carry significantly higher price tags; how do you know if it is worth it?
In this article, we discuss the differences between grass-fed, organic, and grain-fed beef to see which is better. We'll look at the debate between organic and standard varieties and weigh the health benefits of each.
Shopping for food used to be much easier. You just went to the market, got what you needed, and that was it. Nobody would care where your food came from or how it arrived on the shelf and even less about what was really in the items you intended to purchase. Before reaching your grocery aisles, animals had probably gone through various grasslands and eaten their daily grass intake. This grass was the animals' primary source of food, for it also contained all of their necessary nutrients like proteins, vitamins, minerals, and carbohydrates.
However, the predominant food source for cattle has been grain for many years now. What changed?
Why the Switch to Grain?
One of the most apparent reasons for this switch is money. Cattle farmers can make a much larger profit by feeding their cattle grains because grains are cheaper and fatten the animal quickly. In the post-WWII era, bigger is better has become the mantra for the food industry. Changing the food supply for cattle to grain resulted in larger cows with more yield for less cost.
What are the Health Benefits or Concerns of Grain-Fed Beef?
Generally, grain-fed beef is fattier and contains fewer nutrients making it more unhealthy for consumers. To keep the cows from getting sick, they are given antibiotics, hormones, and other chemicals that could be harmful to humans.
In recent years, "organic" has become a household word as people try to preserve the environment and ensure their food is not contaminated. Organic beef means cattle are certified-organic food, raised without antibiotics or hormones, and allowed year-round access to the outdoors.
Notice that the requirement of organic food does not specify grass, grain, or corn, so most likely they are being fed organic feed made of grain or corn because it is cheaper and makes them more prominent in size.
Health Benefits of Organic Beef
One could argue that organic beef is the healthiest alternative since there are no hormones or antibiotics, and their food is somewhat regulated.
Grass-fed beef has become more popular over the past years with a nutritional value that is much higher than that of regular or even organic cattle. Grass-fed cattle have access to pasture where they can freely graze, are not fed grain or grain by-products, must have continual access to pasture throughout the growing season, and only eat grass and forage.
These factors cause grass-fed beef to be leaner with a different, less fatty taste due to a diet that includes natural grasses and shrubs.
Grass-fed Beef Benefits
The health benefits of grass-fed beef are increased omega-3 fatty acids, conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), and a higher vitamin E content. These factors also make grass-fed beef healthier for humans to eat because grass contains more nutrients and vitamins than grain.
The grass-fed advantages are apparent, but grass-fed beef also carries a higher price tag. Additionally, grass-fed meat is more difficult to find than grain or even organic due to limited supply and higher processing costs.
So, What Kind of Beef Will You Choose?
Now that you are familiar with grass-fed, organic, and grain-fed beef, the choice is up to you. If you want leaner meat with potentially more nutrients but a different taste, grass-fed could be the best option for you. On the other hand, if you wish for more significant cuts of meat and don't mind it being fattier, the grain-fed choice is probably ideal.
Or, if you want a healthy choice that is still affordable and can be found easily in most grocery stores, organic could be your best bet. It all comes down to your food preferences and how important nutrition is to you when considering grass-fed, organic, or grain-fed beef.
For grilling, grass-fed beef is healthier and best for those looking to increase the amount of grass-fed meats in their diet.